Switching to sustainable agriculture enabled the Mandi family to provide their children with a larger and healthier choice of food. Not only that, they now have surplus veggies to sell at the market – and the wife is on her way to become a trainer that will help other farmers break out of the cycle of poverty.
“Our food tastes so much better now that we don’t use any chemicals”, is one of the first things the Mandi family, from the Santal tribe in West Bengal, shares when asked about the results of their involvement in the Sustainable Integrated Farming Systems project. “Before we used to eat only one type of vegetable a day: now I can cook three different ones for my children, and two times a week we even eat eggs from our farm,” continues Padmabati, the wife.
Mangal, the husband, explains how they earlier cultivated only one crop and had six months of fallow land, but now some patches are cultivated the whole year around, and they get vegetables from 3-4 different crops. They have very little input expenses, as they do not buy chemicals anymore. To combat pests, they use cow urine, and as fertilizer they use vermi-compost. The soil is now much more fertile and retains more water, thus reducing the need for irrigation. They produce their own oil, from mustard and other pulses, and drink the milk of their cows, except salt and some spices, and do not need to buy anything from the market. In fact, even after feeding a family of seven, they still manage to sell vegetables at the market for three months, earning around 5,000 Rs.
Padmabati is now being trained to become a resource person and will be working with other farmers to share her experience and knowledge on Sustainable Integrated Farming.